One of the dynamic, young group of American Realists known as the Ashcan School, George Luks was a tough character who in art and life embraced the gritty side of turn-of-the-century New York. In this important early work, Luks pictured the street life of one of the Lower East Side's teeming immigrant neighborhoods. By 1905, Hester Street had become home to a recently arrived population of Eastern European Jews and the site of a daily open-air market where thousands shopped for their necessities. Hester Street thus provided the type of unvarnished urban subject to which Luks was particularly drawn, and one from which New Yorkers accustomed to genteel shops and formal public etiquette would have recoiled. At the same time, these subjects held an exotic appeal for those intrigued by how the other half lived. As was his practice, Luks probably executed rapid on-site sketches in pencil or charcoal before turning to work on the painting. He would have completed the canvas with rapid spontaneity, working out both composition and details in the process.
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George Benjamin Luks (American, 1867-1933). Street Scene (Hester Street), 1905. Oil on canvas, 25 13/16 x 35 7/8 in. (65.5 x 91.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 40.339
Dick S. Ramsay Fund
25 13/16 x 35 7/8 in. (65.5 x 91.1 cm); Frame: 32 1/2 x 43in. (82.6 x 109.2cm)